Botswana’s conservation policy under discussion

SHARE   |   Sunday, 06 July 2014   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang

Different Voices in this opinion piece for Wall Street Journal, Jessica Eaton criticises current US and Botswana conservation policy, while noting the fact that Elephants are not an endangered species in Botswana. Her views obviously do not reflect those of government.

On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a federal agency housed at the Department of the Interior, effectively banned the sale and trade of antique ivory within the U.S. In so doing, the federal government has made the owners of precious chess sets and decorative musical instruments hoarders of valueless period pieces. Not only is this intrusive behaviour bad for business, it's no good for the elephants the department claims to be protecting.


While it's clear that preventing the sale of your great-grandfather's ivory cane does nothing to save the life of an African elephant, it may not be so obvious to the average American (or, apparently, to Obama administration bureaucrats) that the majority of African elephants don't need protecting in the first place.

In Botswana, the country that is home to one-third of the African elephant population, 150,000 of them inhabit an area about the size of the New York metro area. This is unsustainable. A short drive around the Chobe National Park reveals the destruction the animals have wreaked on the environment since 1990, when the population in the reserve numbered only a few thousand. The once-lush forest has been decimated by the elephants. Soil sullies the water where it was previously held back by a robust root system, and game has died of starvation in their ravaged habitat.


One might forgive the U.S. for its ignorance on how to handle an elephant problem in an obscure nation 6,000 miles away, but one cannot forgive Botswana's own sloppy handling of the situation.
In January, Botswana’s President Ian Khama banned wildlife hunting at the urging of environmentalists. Khama has been honoured internationally by green groups for his conservation efforts, but his actions are hurting Botswana businesses and wildlife. The ban will no doubt exacerbate the region's waning biodiversity and eliminate a lucrative source of income for local communities.

Elephants have no natural predator. The population is controlled only by disease, hunting or starvation due to the self-inflicted destruction of their own environment. Large-scale culling is the best solution to this catastrophic problem, but it is rejected by the bunny huggers.


For those Americans whose basements will, as of this week, be cluttered with devalued antiques, misguided conservationism is a nuisance. For Botswana, it's detrimental to the environment, the economy and the elephants.


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